Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Unsatisfied lunch at Ikukan


Ikukan - Yasai Udon
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.
No, it's not the restaurant, it's me.

You see, I am not well. In fact, I am suffering a bout of stomach virus. Luckily for me, the symtoms are mild but it has begun since last Friday. The past few days of indulging did nothing to help matters and I finally saw the doctor today and got some medication. Under strict orders from the mean doctor, I was to abstain from eating too much, so as to allow the body to detox. As a rough guideline, I was to eat half the usual amount of food. That is such misery, I tell you.

I could have skipped the lunch appointment but I was on MC and I also did not want to miss out catching up with friends. Instead, I fought hard against my heart's desire and ordered what seemed to be least dangerous item for my stomach. The yasai udon, with an additional poached egg, was my order. The soup was light yet flavourful, udon was chewy and overall, it made a stomach warming lunch and uplifting to the spirit, as a counter to the grey day.

No complains on the food from my dining companions; Ikukan is consistantly good. As usual, our conversation revolved around food mostly, and I had a good time. I would definitely need to come back again, the macrobiotic set beckons.

Ikukan Japanese Charcoal Grill
23 Mohamed Ali Lane
#01-01 S 068979
Tel: 6325 3362

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Kaisan

This is a delayed review on Kaisan, a Japanese restaurant in an inconspicuous location within Raffles Hotel. One would think such a restaurant probably charges an arm and leg but that is not true in this case.

I was there for lunch and there are a few bento set lunches that are extremely good value for money. Price ranges from $30-$45 and there is plenty of food in each set. I could barely walk out standing upright, without a bulge from my tummy.

Sushi gozen set was what our clients ordered for the whole table. We started off with sharing of fresh vegetable sticks paired with individual servings of a miso-base dip. Crunchy and juicy, my palate was cleansed and geared up for the main courses.

Sashimi was fresh. We were there on a Thursday and I expected no less. Each slice was of an optimal thickness, sliced expertly so you do not get a chewy or grainy texture. The yellowtail, or hamachi, was firm yet creamy; definitely the highlight for me.

Then came the simmered dish of silken tofu, enoki and shiitake mushrooms and topped with a slice of bass. The broth was sweet and overall, this was a light-tasting dish.

Fatty, firm, thick and lightly salted, this saba was grilled to perfection and absolutely divine! I loved this and the portion was more than generous.

Sushi was 5 different ones - tuna, yellowtail, tamago, salmon and scallop. The rice was nicely seasoned and the rice:fish ratio was faultless. To be honest, I never ate sushi in my life because too much rice turns me off. But I ate every single piece this time. That, says a lot.

That is not all. We finished with a light fish soup. Then of course, the obligatory watermelon.

I was one very satisfied girl.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pu Tien

I know naught about Heng Hwa cuisine but I do know when there is good food.

There is a reputed restaurant serving up authentic Heng Hwa food along Kitchener Road. In fact, this restaurant is doing so well that a competitor set up shop just a few doors down with almost the same name. Beware of the fraud! The real deal is closer to Jalan Besar, called Pu Tien Restaurant.

I was not really expecting much from this dinner, actually. In fact, if not for my mom's interest to participate, I would have given this a miss.

Luckily I went, how else could I have found out I enjoyed Heng Hwa food?

Cliche as it is, this was a case of "can't have cake and eat it too"; not every one of the eleven dishes is worth highlighting but based on the few that stood out, I could find myself back again.

Deep Fried Squirrel Fish with Sweet sour gravy
.... is a new twist to the regular sweet sour fish. Deftly sliced to resemble a squirrel, the entire fish was floured and deep fried to a light golden hue and doused with a gravy with a hint of orange peel that prevented the gravy from being cloying. I ate my portion, fins and all.

Hin Hwa Lor Mee
.... this was new to me as well. In fact, I was wolfing down my noodles thinking it was some sort of mee sua. The noodles were soft but retained just a wee bit of resistance.
By itself, it would have been insignificant if not for the accompanying gravy, which I personally felt was to-die-for. I guess the copious amounts of clams and pork belly slices were the culprits that made the gravy so delicious.

Homemade Beancurd
.... was egg-flavored, deep-fried and so tasty, for the lack of a better word. The brown sauce was not pre-requisite to the dish and did little other than to facilitate those moments of tofu taking a throat-gilding joyride.

Lotus leaf steam vermicelli crab
.... the vermicelli was first stirfried before the chopped up crab was laid upon it and steamed til done. The crab was fresh and not at all overcooked, which meant that reaping the flesh was an easy task. But to me, the highlight was the vermicelli, slightly chewy and so flavourful! I guess they absorbed all the crab juice in the steaming process.

Stir fried yam
... was the final course. The yam cubes had a coating that tasted slightly sweet and sticky. The taste laid on a thin borderline between savory and sweet and to me, that was simply amazing. The tubers were also very "sung", with little to no resistance at all once you get past the outer fried crust. Delicious, especially addictive paired with an excellent dessert wine. A very apt comment compared them to popcorn, you just keep going.

I think my mom enjoyed herself, I know I did.

Pu Tien Restaurant
127 Kitchener Road

Friday, November 10, 2006

Iggy's



* This could become a pretty long post so bear with me *

I just became a part of the unofficial "Lunch Bunch" and I am not complaining. Our inaugural lunch could not be held anymore apt than Iggy's, the 4th best restaurant in Asia (yes, we are starting on a very high base here).

Anyway, since Iggy's came into my radar screen, I have just been waiting for the right opportunity to come so I can have an excuse for gluttony. Such a restaurant with such a reputation is not one to go with just anybody; you need good company, people you enjoy hanging out with and look forward to chilling with for the next couple of hours. The foodies are just the right people so I definitely was looking forward to the lunch more for the company than the food really and with that expectation, I will lay my conclusion upfront - food's great but pretty pricy and not a place to come often so I will need a special reason to return.



After we were seated and served with water, a server came around with a rather large bread basket, where we had a choice of plain or olive bread. Naturally, I took the latter over the plain, which was found to be too hard by one. I was happy to find it warm, which implied freshness to me. The roll had a crispy crust that gave way to soft, uneven pockets of fluff that was embedded with cut green olives throughout. Point is, that bread roll exceeded my expectations.

After placing our food orders, we had an amuse of 2 purees served in a shot glass - pumpkin over tofu sesame. The sweetness of the pumpkin balanced the creamy and savory tofu sesame perfectly (although I did not like that it was served cold).


My starter was a calamari salad with marinated peppers, rocket salad, cherry tomatos, olives and fresh herbs. (Iggy's has a pretty detailed description on their menu huh?) The grilled octopus was a little bit charred but was neither burnt nor rubbery. Its smokiness worked well against the briney olives and bitter rocket leaves; I thought this starter was refreshing and served its purpose.



For my main course, I had to go with the one and only seafood option, a "pan-fried crispy seabass with eggplant caviar and tomato confit". The fish was crispy all right, as I found out the hard way (pun intended), trying to use what Iggy's term as the "gourmet spoon" to cut through the crispy skin for my first bite. Of course, that only led to no eats and one very unhappy girl.

I say, "Get me a fish knife anytime!" and the waiter got me one, only after umpteen reminders of my uncouthness, that Iggy's used only the "gourmet spoon" for fish. But why fix a table if it aint broke?

Moving on, the fish was definitely pan-fried down to a crisp but the flesh remained firm and not tough at all. Be careful and not take for granted it would be boneless for I bit into a tiny one myself. The "eggplant caviar" would be a highly dignified way of describing a eggplant mash. On first taste by itself, I found it rather oily and tongue-slicking (perhaps my taste buds were more sensitive after the refreshing and light starter). But it went down much better as I ate more of it together with the bass and/or spread on my olive bread. In the end, I cleaned up my plate good with my remaining bread roll, but then again, that was one puny seabass!



For dessert, we all chose to order different ones to create our own tasting session. Mine was the baked chocolate molten cake with Java vanilla ice cream. I am usually not a lunchtime dessert girl, but inevitably, the sense of smell whetted up an appetite for sweets. Unfortunately, tastewise, it was just okay. There was nothing wrong with the baked chocolate cake, which was more milk than dark and, fortunately not cloyingly sweet. It had a outer crust way thicker than it should be before revealing a molten inside. The mediocre vanilla ice cream did nothing to enhance the dessert; it was not creamy or rich, but rather icy and melted fast as a result. The little shards of sugar praline were a joy to bite into though.

I also tasted an interesting basil icecream that was, well interesting, but not screaming for attention. The panna cotta was strangely rubbery, probably a result of overly-enthusiastic gelatin as with the mascarpone cheese in the tiramisu. Overall, the tiramisu was decent, as the layers of sponge were moist and evenly alternated with mascarpone cheese but should a bit more flavors come through from the coffee and alchohol, it would be much better. The iced cappuccino had a surprise element to it; we did not realise that coffee mousse was sitting beneath the milk foam and it was delicious! Go for the Bellini if you want something light and refreshing.

I recommend Iggy's for a leisurely lunch, as it would be more affordable. Food's great but it would be hard to justify dinner. Iggy's did away with the 2-course option; what is available is a 3-course lunch menu for S$45 or 5-course for S$75. I believe lunch is only from Mondays to Fridays and it would be highly recommended to make a reservation given the small number of seats available.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What kind of a donut are you?

I don't usually partake in such things but somehow, I feel different today.

You Are a Boston Creme Donut
You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Egg tarts


Egg tarts closeup
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.
I attempted egg tarts again last Saturday. Although I did not like the browning that happened on the top, they received rave reviews from all who tried. My dad claimed these are "head to head on with Ang Sah Lee's" (referring to our favourite egg tarts from a particular bakery at Serangoon Gardens). So I am sharing the recipe with you. If you have some tips on how to achieve the smooth and sleek yellow tops, please let me in the secret too!

Egg Tarts
(Makes 15)

Ingredients for Pastry:
150g all purpose flour
2 tbsp corn flour
1 ½ tbsp icing sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
100g butter

Method for pastry:
1. Sift flour, salt, icing sugar & corn flour together.
2. Rub butter lightly into sifted flour till mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add egg yolk to form a dough. Chill dough in refrigerator for ½ to 1 hour.
4. Divide dough into 20g portions. Roll dough out thinly and line each tart tin, pressing down to an uniform thickness. Leave the prepared tins in the fridge while you proceed with the filling.

Ingredients for egg filling:
160g eggs (about 4 small eggs)
80g castor sugar
60g fresh milk
200g water

1. Stir the egg filling ingredients thoroughly till well blended.
2. Filter twice, throwing away any residue each time, and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 250C.
4. Fill each tart tin about 95% full.
5. Bake the tarts for about 15 minutes, until done.
6. If you can't wait until they cool down to a room temperature like me, I strongly suggest using a spoon / scoop method to devour the fresh egg tarts.

These tarts do not have that overwhelming "eggy" stench and they were not overly sweet. The pastry crust was not too thick so it was biscuity with a bit of crunch. I thought the taste was excellent, just asthetically, I thought I could do better.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Birthday lunch at Da Paolo

Da Paolo at Cluny Court holds a special place in my heart just because it is the first restaurant I ate at in Singapore as a working adult.

I remembered how excited I was to find out there are actually restaurants away from the Orchard Road strip. When I got there, I was even more surprised to see how secluded the area was. Inside the restaurant, waiters looked so professional with their white uniforms and neat black aprons. The restaurant kept lighting on the dim side and we sat al fresco. The mild night breeze kept me comfortable and I enjoyed that cosy and intimate dinner with a couple of rather new friends.

Anyway, I have not been back to that outlet since and thought of it when prompted for a lunch venue in view of my birthday.

Business was brisk for lunch that Saturday, but I was not expecting otherwise. We started with an appetizer of calamari and soft-shell crab (S$19) while waiting for my lil' sister to join us after rushing over from school. The flour coating around the squid rings was seasoned to perfection and deemed the tartar sauce unneccessary. They got a bit rubbery when cold though.

When The Sister got here, we ordered, taking advantage of the occasion, an extravagant lunch filled with large pieces of meats and special pastas. I'll start off with mine...

Remembering the delicious cod from my dinner the first time, I decided to go for it again. The only one was codfish with scallop and vodka saffron cream sauce ($28) and not a fan of heavy sauces, I failed to notice that red flag. Needless to say, I immediately regretted my decision when the rather unappetizing looking entree arrived. Though generous with the cod, they were doused with a thick, yellowish saffron cream sauce, masking the oily flavor of cod that I relished. The sauce also started to form a layer of skin as it cooled down and I had to constantly swirl it around to prevent that from happening. Definitely something I would not order again, at least without requesting for a lighter sauce. Oh well, at least the fish was fresh and tender.

The Papa got the meat special of the day - lamb cutlet ($34) with reduced balsamic vinegar. The meat looked dry and tough but the others refuted that assumption. The Mommy got the seafood spaghetti ($22) which was baked in parchment paper and opened ala mode in front of us. The noodles were al dente and the sauce, choked full of scallops, mussels, was robust in flavour.

B-chan got the osso bucco (S$30), which was a huge leg of veal braised down to fork tenderness, but where was the potatos the menu promised? The Sister got the pasta special of the day - squid ink tagliatelle tossed with scallops, king prawns and cherry tomato ($26). Again, the pasta shone. This is a good example of how a delicious dish can be put together without fancy cooking techniques or complicated sauces. It is not a big issue but I thought I should mention I could not really detect much of any squid ink flavour.

After a heavy main course and filling on the bread and oil/vinegar dip, we just got a couple of obligatory desserts to round up our lunch. The tiramisu (S$10) was alternate and even layers of sweetened mascarpone and sponge. This was delicious as the sponge had just the right amount of moisture. On the other hand, our mandarin orange sherbet, special sherbet of the day (S$8), was just ok.

Still an enjoyable lunch as my family had not gathered for a western one in a long while.

Da Paolo Il Giardino
501 Bukit Timah Road,
#01-05, Cluny Court.
Tel: 6463 9628

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Best Business Lunch?

I have been running dry on free business lunches for a while now but the curse finally broke today and I had one at Tower Club today. Not only was the view fantastic (advantage of being located at the 62nd level), the food was excellent too!

Initial reservations about the food disappeared with the first course. Not wanting to have anything too heavy, I chose to have a plain salad over the fancy aki tuna tartare and parsnip soup. It was a wonderful surprise, to be presented not only mixed greens but the chef thoughtfully dressed it up with generous additions of pomelo, mango cubes, granny smith strips and avocado chunks. Though there were many components to the salad, they all seemed to hold hands in unison, and the result was nothing short of clean-tasting and a simply delicious start.

The note started off high and only went higher with my main course of salmon. There was a Japanese slant to this entree, evident through the enoki mushrooms, edamame and eggplant. But they worked against the fresh fillet of salmon, simply oil poached and seasoned with a sprinkle of coarse black pepper. The flavours complimented the fish, which was cooked to perfection.

Dessert was a modern twist to the traditional charlotte. Large pieces of pear embedded within a gelatinous creamy mound much akin to panna cotta, sat upon a pool of fresh passionfruit sauce, finished with a sugar tuile for that crunch to contrast the otherwise one-dimensional dessert.

All these for S$36 in the business set lunch but worth every dollar. It doesn't get better than that, other than being free of course, and it really has been a while since I actually enjoyed a business lunch so I am happy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ocean Trout at Doc Cheng's

The ocean trout has a distinctive rosy pink/orange flesh and the flavour is more subtle and less salty than salmon. It is one of my favourite fish to eat and I can still remember when my love started. It was during one of the meals during a school trip to Perth, Australia, and we all had a whole baked trout wrapped in foil for lunch by the lake. I remembered picking at the small fine bones but the flesh was a peachy pink, creamy and soft, signs of a truly fresh catch and worth all the tedious picking of bones.

Yet the trout is lacking its presence in many of our restaurants so needless to say, while I am disappointed at that fact, I typically pounce on the trout item when I see one with no second thoughts.

The mother and I went to Doc Cheng's for dinner and guess what I saw on the menu?

"Tandoori Ocean Trout with Wild Rice Rissotto and Smoked Tomato Coulis".

*drools*

Located in Raffles Hotel, Doc Cheng's menu is an eclectic mix of East and West cuisine, as observed in the description of my food.

I took the risk of fusion being con-fusion and was glad my gamble paid off. The fish was baked to a char on the outside, yet the insides kept its moisture and remained cushiony soft. The wild rice risotto was al dente enough to make the jaws work out a little and cheesy enough without being overwhelming. Atop the trout was a pile of thinly shaved fennel, marinated with a tangy sauce that helped to cut out any potential heaviness from the creamy risotto. Just believe me, the odd combination of East and West worked out exceptionally well. But this does not come cheap. At S$37, I think I will have salmon more often.

Doc Cheng's
Raffles Hotel 2nd Floor
Tel: 6431 6156